Nita Strauss Recalls How Steve Vai Treated Her During Guitar Duel, Reveals One Thing Only Vai Is Good At

The commotion surrounding Nita Strauss’ decision to join Demi Lovato’s band is slowly easing up. Not only did people realize that this is her profession, but they’ve also heard Lovato’s music. It’s pretty much a pop-inspired punk-rock and it’s far from the pretentious attempt at it that people thought that it would be.

Now that Nita is in the clear from the watchful elitist eye of the rock fanbase, she’s had an interview with Revolver where she discussed various topics. Among them is a mention of her biggest inspiration, Mr. Steve Vai, and the things she learned from him.

NAMM 2020: Steve Vai & Nita Strauss Ibanez PIA Concert - Clip 23 - The Animal

One of the things that Nita recalled is guitar duels that she shared with Vai. Most notably, she pointed out that the “duel” should not be a straightforward competition (which is extremely difficult to define in music) but rather having variations on a theme and playing with it. She said (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“Here’s the thing about guitar duels, because I’ve been in these situations with much better guitar players like myself – playing with Vai, or Satriani, where you’re sort of in this cutting heads mode where you’re supposed to be dueling – and they never duel.

“You know, the best guitar players I’ve played with have never tried to outplay me – which is very generous because they could [laughs]. I was there with Steve, I’ve played a Steve Vai song called ‘The Animal’ with him a couple times, once for charity and once an Ibanez event we did together. And both times, I’m in his world. I’m with his band, playing his song.”

“Steve Vai could have taken me apart, could have torn me to pieces anytime he wanted – and he never did. He is the type of person, when you’re trading back and forth, he listens and he embellishes, and then I listen and I embellish.”

And it’s more of a dance than a duel, you know? And I have taken that with me and when I’ve gotten to play with great guitar players like that, and that’s something I want to carry on.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Nita also discussed Vai’s music and style of playing. Reflecting on one of his most interesting skills, she said:

“Steve Vai was the guitar player for me because I just have never heard up until that point – I’ll say still have never really heard – a guitar player make the guitar speak the way Steve Vai does.”

“Whether you’re thinking about a song like ‘Tender Surrender’, which is just like such a sexy guitar song, or like when he’s playing ‘Yankee Rose’ with David Lee Roth, and literally having a back-and-forth conversation – David Lee Roth is speaking English, and Steve is playing guitar. And somehow it makes sense.”

“That was that was a moment for me when I [realized], ‘You can tell a story with this instrument.’ And I’ve never been particularly good at putting what I want to say into words, like writing lyrics, or poetry or anything like that. But I have found that I’m good at telling it with the notes of the guitar.”

Photo: Frank Schwichtenberg (Nita Strauss – Wacken Open Air 2017 38), Toglenn (Steve Vai Zepparella 2017)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.